MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is not to blame for the shutdown of ABS-CBN Corp, his legal counsel said Wednesday, adding that the closure is not the same as the network's shutdown when the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972.
ABS-CBN was "barking at the wrong tree" as Congress has the sole authority to grant the renewal of franchises, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said.
"Under his watch but not his fault. It was not his fault, it was not his vision. You cannot put the blame on him. ABS-CBN knew from the very start that its franchise would be expiring. It should've done its part in asking Congress to do its job. If it did and Congress has not done its task then why can you be blaming the President for that?" Panelo told ANC.
The network went off air Tuesday night following a cease and desist order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), which did not grant ABS-CBN provisional authority to continue operations after its franchise expired Monday.
The move of the telecoms body to close one of the public's credible sources of information was met with criticism from rights groups, lawmakers, and Vice President Leni Robredo.
Several critics have likened it to the network's last closure in 1972 when government shut down mass media and seized ABS-CBN from the Lopezes.
Panelo, however, denied the shutdown was a "repetition of history."
"When martial law was declared, the President then had the power to close all communications," he said.
"This particular chapter of our history, the President does not have that power. Congress has that power. There’s a wheel of a difference between then and now."
Asked if Duterte would sign into law a measure granting a fresh 25-year license to operate for ABS-CBN, which employs around 11,000 workers, Panelo said "the President approves law that is in accordance with the Constitution."
"He vetoes provisions with respect to anything contrary to the Constitution. I don’t think there's any problem with the President if the franchise is correctly done," he said.
Malacañang has said ABS-CBN was "free to exhaust all legal remedies available to it."
News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.